Tamil or English Medium Education in Tamil Nadu Schools?
TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2013 (ID. 2013-08-01)
2. Current Situation
3. The Root Cause
4. The Solution
5. Action Plan
A Personal Note
Author of this article and all his immediate family members studied in Tamil medium in school.
Most privately run schools in Tamilnadu offer English medium education. Many parents send their children to these English-medium schools, if they can pay the school fees and if a school is available in their area. Tamil Nadu State Government decided to offer English medium education as an option in government schools in 2013. This angered some "pro-Tamil groups" and they held demonstrations asking the government not to offer English medium option. This writer, whose love for Tamil is second to none, has a different opinion and mode of action to protect Tamil from the English medium craze. Let me explain my position.
2. Current Situation
Parents choose to send their children to English medium private schools because they think that English medium education paves the way for better job opportunities for the children. They are correct to a large extent. These private schools charge fees and poor families cannot afford the fees. Also, there are very few private schools in rural areas. So poor students or students from rural areas cannot attend English medium private schools. Tamil Nadu State Government's decision to offer English medium education as an option is to level the playing field--balance the equation--so that any student can get English medium education if they so choose.
Instead of opposing the government action, we--those of us who love Tamil and worried about the future of Tamil--should analyze the root cause of why parents send their children to English medium schools, and then rectify the root cause. Here is how I see it.
3. The Root Cause
All parents want the best for their children. They want them to get good jobs when they grow up. Why many of them want to give their children English medium education instead of Tamil medium education? Do they hate their mother tongue Tamil and love the foreign English? I bet they love their mother tongue Tamil and have no special love for English. Parents believe that English medium education gives better job opportunities when their children enter the job market. They are correct. Under the current language policies of both the Indian Central Government and the Tamil Nadu State Government, people with English proficiency have much better job opportunities.
You want people to opt for Tamil medium education? Just make proficiency in Tamil a requirement for getting and keeping both private and government jobs within Tamil Nadu State. So here is the solution to end the rush to English medium education in Tamilnadu.
4. The Solution
Tamil Nadu State Government should pass legislation requiring that only those who have proficiency in Tamil can get and hold jobs within Tamil Nadu; both state government jobs and private jobs. If there is a legal challenge to such a law, meet the challenge in the courts and/or amend the constitution, as necessary. (Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu should take the lead in gathering support from other non-Hindi Members of Parliament in passing legislation requiring proficiency in state language for Indian government jobs too. That is a separate issue. In this article, we will limit ourselves to what the state government can do to protect the future of Tamil.)
Anyone seeking private or state government job in Tamil Nadu should establish proficiency in Tamil by having Tamil medium education or by passing a Tamil proficiency test. The proficiency level should depend on the required educational level. For example, if high school education is required for the job, the job candidate must pass a test of Tamil proficiency at the high school level.
Once such a law is passed and enacted, very few parents would choose to send their children to English medium schools. Tamil will flourish in schools, jobs and society. This is the right solution to protecting the future of Tamil, not denying better job opportunities to rural and poor children by denying English medium education to them.
5. Action Plan
Tamil groups, activists and scholars should spend their energies lobbying the Tamilnadu state government to pass and enact a language requirement law as discussed in Section 4. Such an effort will get far more support from the general public. In fact, there is resentment among many parents about the opposition to English medium education option in government schools. Let us put pressure on all Tamil Nadu political parties to support a language requirement legislation. Take our position to the general public through public meetings, conferences, signature campaign, newspaper articles and television shows, whatever is possible.
1. Comments from Sudalai
I am 87 years old. I know of a time when there were not many High Schools in rural areas and also there were school fees (no free education). This essentially denied high school education to the rural and poor people. Then in the 1950s and early 1960s, hundreds of schools were opened in rural areas and high school education was also made free in Tamil Nadu. This resulted in the upward mobility of rural and poor families, as their educated children were able to get better paying jobs. The English-medium craze had not set in Tamil Nadu at that time. Almost everyone studied in Tamil medium.
Things have changed today. It is undeniable that students with English-medium education have a better chance of getting better jobs, even in Tamil Nadu. So the upward push given to the poor and rural families by opening free high schools in the rural areas is now somewhat reversed because English-medium education is not available to the poor and rural families. It is now necessary to offer free English-medium education in rural schools. Otherwise, upper echelon jobs will go to English-medium educated students from the rich and urban families (not only from Tamilnadu but also from other states) while the rural and poor Tamil students will forever be kept down at low paying jobs. Let us not destroy the future of the poor and rural Tamil students in the name of protecting Tamil.
First enact laws to require Tamil proficiency to all private and government jobs within Tamil Nadu. Then, and only then, deny English-medium education in government schools. I will then whole-heartedly support such a move.
2. Comments from Venkataraman
Campaigning to make Tamil proficiency a requirement for all private and public sector jobs in Tamil Nadu is the right course of action. This is would also prevent out-of-staters coming to Tamil Nadu and occupying high level jobs in government and industry without adequate proficiency in Tamil. I have no objection to out-of-staters coming into Tamil Nadu for jobs but they must be proficient in Tamil before they start working in Tamilnadu.
3. Response from the Author
I agree with both N. Sudalai and S. Venkataraman.
I request all Tamil patriots to switch the demonstrations, agitations, meetings, signature campaigns, etc. from "against English-medium education in government schools" to "for Tamil proficiency requirement for all private and government jobs in Tamil Nadu". The former, that is, campaign against English-medium education in government schools, will relegate rural and poor Tamil students to low-pay jobs. The latter, that is, campaign for Tamil proficiency requirement for jobs, would make Tamil the language for both low-pay and high-pay jobs in Tamil Nadu.
After laws are passed and Tamil proficiency requirement is enforced, we will evaluate the situation and decide whether a campaign is needed against English-medium education. Most likely the English-medium craze would automatically end once Tamil proficiency becomes a requirement for jobs in Tamil Nadu. So first thing first. Let us campaign for "Tamil proficiency requirement for all private and government jobs in Tamil Nadu" now.
Long Live Tamil!
1. A Comprehensive Programme to Protect Indian Languages (A Bill of Rights for Indian Languages) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2011 (34 KB)
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